Hornets Complete Season Sweep of Jets

Crystal Le -- Encinal High senior Diego Cerna scores a layup against Alameda on January 21.
Crystal Le -- Encinal High senior Diego Cerna scores a layup against Alameda on January 21.

Hornets Complete Season Sweep of Jets

The Alameda High School (AHS) men’s basketball team held off a spirited late comeback attempt by the host Encinal High School (EHS) to season sweep over their city rivals on Jan. 21.

The fourth quarter was a thrilling affair complete with controversy. AHS led 51-50 with 2:20 to go. While awaiting free throws, an Encinal player was charged with a technical foul, giving the Hornets an additional two free throws. Alameda converted 3 of 4 to push their lead to 54-50. AHS sophomore Zion Moore's basket-and-one with 1:39 left gave the Hornets a seven-point lead.

After a quick basket by Encinal, AHS was charged an inbound five-second violation. A Hornets' coach argued the call, which led to another technical. Two Jet free throws narrowed the score to 57-54 with 33 seconds to play.

Down by three with 30 seconds left, the Jets had two possessions to try to tie the game. However, they committed a turnover by throwing the ball out of bounds on both offensive trips. After the first turnover, the Jets applied a full-court press and got a steal but couldn't convert on their last possession of the game. AHS senior Gabe Garcia converted two free throws late to give the Hornets a 59-54 victory.

“When we play Encinal, it's always going to be a close game,” said AHS junior Jackson Yep. “You know it's a cross-town rivalry, so every time we play them, we have to play hard. The last game was close too. We knew this was going to be a hard game so we just played how we are supposed to play and when we do that we should win.”

The Hornets’ record improved to 16-3 overall, while the Jets dropped to 7-12.

The Hornets got off to a fast start, taking an early 10-4 lead thanks to Yep (#5) and fellow junior Jacob Hodges (#1) making three-point shots. The Jets battled back and at the end of a sloppy, foul-heavy first quarter, the Hornets only led 16-13. Both teams continued committing numerous fouls in the second quarter of this physical rivalry game. Every time AHS tried to make a run to extend their lead, Encinal answered right back. The hosts stepped up their game in the second quarter and went into halftime up 28-25.

The Hornets started the second half playing well. By limiting mistakes and making more shots, they opened up a 44-33 lead, their largest of the game. AHS took a nine-point lead into the final quarter, but they let their opponents gradually cut into their lead.

Both teams spread the ball around on offense, getting scoring contributions from several different players. Encinal senior Omar Babikir (#1) made several big shots in the contest. Fellow EHS seniors Diego Cerna (#23) and Ezra Radnaasuren (#2) also stood out for their hustle on both ends of the floor.

"We played hard and fast," said Babikir. "[But] we can improve on boxing out and playing smart on defense."

AHS co-captains Yep and Garcia (#10) were at the forefront of the Hornets’ attack along with Moore (#23).

The Jan. 21 non-league encounter was a chance for the Jets to redeem themselves after they lost at AHS Jan. 7 by the score of 52-44. The stands at Encinal's gym were packed full of boisterous students, parents, and other fans cheering on their respective schools.

Alameda and Encinal are next in action on Wednesday, Jan. 25, with the Hornets hosting St. Joseph Notre Dame and the Jets hosting Mt. Eden High of Hayward.

Encinal publication design teacher Joshua Linville contributed to this story.

Katherine Bautista -- Alameda High junior Jackson Yep pushes the ball up court during the Hornets 59-54 win.